Hammer Films’ Psychological Thrillers 1950-1972 by David Huckvale (book review).

May 2, 2014 | By | Reply More

If you only thought Hammer Films only created monster horror films, then David Huckvale’s book ‘Hammer Films’ Psychological Thrillers 1950-1972’ should be pretty much of an eye-opener to you. Some of them, from time to time, have cropped up on UK TV but even Hammer’s comedy output gets more attention than them. Huckvale also points out that these thrillers also owe more the film ‘Les Diaboliques’ and Alfred Hitchcock in their plot elements. Hardly surprising really, when you consider in its formative years Hammer jumped on any bandwagon to make money, as indeed did other struggling British studios. It is in Hammer’s favour that they had a certain amount of panache and style that made them successful. One thing that has still puzzled me is that Hammer also released films under different imprints and although it wouldn’t have been possible with the pre-monster films, you would have thought the more psychological-based films would have had less baggage without the association. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing only appeared once each in these seventeen films, so it would hardly have stuck the Hammer marker on them.


Huckvale’s analysis of each film is really depthy and it’s rare that I disagreed with him on the films I’ve seen. However, having seen ‘Taste Of Fear’ (1961) a couple years back, having Christopher Lee in any film at that time would have been seen as a seat-filler irrespective of its content. I can see why Lee agreed, too, as it wouldn’t have been a role he would normally be associated with. As Huckvale points out, director Jimmy Sangster wrote, Lee was the ‘ultimate red herring’. You expected him to be evil and he wasn’t. Just in case you wonder if any horror films get any coverage, ‘The Kiss Of The Vampire’ (1964) gets a chapter to itself.

It was also a major influence on Roman Polamski’s ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ (1967). Oh, the film ‘Nightmare’ (1964) shared the same sets as ‘Dracula – Prince Of Darkness’. The Witches (1966) is included but for those have seen it, I agree it was more psychological than demonic. In many respects, this book is a deep analysis of each film. It gives a fair plot analysis along the way but would be a better fit if you’ve actually seen the films. Although, as Huckvale points out, even the Hammer team were running out of variations to do on their more Hitchcock theme towards the end. I have to say, those of these films I have seen were far more creepier in black and white.

You wouldn’t want to watch them in the summer but wait until the nights draw in with the lights down and any creak meant someone was walking overhead and could be doing something dastardly. Then you would get what made these films work. Don’t jump out of your skin.

GF Willmetts

April 2014

(pub: McFarland. 196 page illustrated indexed enlarged paperback. Price: £32.50 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-7471-4) check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.com and www.eurospanbookstore.com

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Category: Books, Films, Horror

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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